I’ve been putting hope into action lately, doing things on purpose.
These are things that usually scare me, and mind you they still scare me when I do them but I do them anyway, because somewhere one day a few months ago, I read some of the smartest advice of my life: The best way to get over your fears is to fall into them — over and over again until they’re not scary anymore.
Scary, and it is, and I imagine that it will be for a long time. But I have to do this for myself. It’s always been a big problem, and I’ve always hoped it will go away one day. But this is the first year when I’m actively taking steps to reduce it. It hasn’t completely worked yet, but I do feel more comfortable. And I think about it when I find myself in applicable situations, and I try to stay aware and fix it.
I guess I was always a shy kid. Even in elementary, I barely had any friends. I was shy because my mother at home was way too tough — she always gave you tests that you would fail. She made you question everything, until you picked up the tactic and began to question things in your head before you even said them. And then to avoid conflict, along with yelling and screaming and beating, you began to not say them at all. And so I lived in constant fear around my house for the whole duration of my childhood until I left for college.
In middle school, I had no friends. I was the new kid in the school, the kid that was always just a little too late, whether it had to do with the latest teen trends or with friendships that had taken place before I got there. Those three years were probably the most miserable of my life, and with mom unable to adjust to the new changes and slowly losing it at home, I found myself escaping to my own world: I spent every Friday holed up in my room reading a new book and the rest of the weekend holed up in my room writing a journal, pretending I was normal.
In ninth, my parents bought me a graphic calculator for Algebra. The first thing I did on my shiny new gadget was to multiply the number of days in a year times four — that’s how long I had left until graduation, the day of freedom. Home was still miserable, but school was at least better for a while. I actually had a few friends now, though not great yet, and I still constantly glanced back behind me to see if people were laughing at me for some odd reason like they had in middle school. But all I saw was blank faces: I was now just another kid in just another flocked high school hallway.
A bunch of things happened in high school that led to my depression toward the end of it. But all you need to know about that is that I was depressed, very depressed for a long time. Then I got to college, and finally I knew I was free. Things would only look up from then on. After all, life owed me freedom, I thought then.
Four years later, I discovered life owed me nothing — only the school owed me my diploma by mail, in about a month. That’s what went through my head as I went up on stage to receive a placeholder diploma and glanced up to see my best friends quietly cheering me on. I wanted to cry at that moment. I wished I had parents there. I was the one who’d told them not to come, knowing just how dysfunctional we’d be anyway. But when they weren’t there, I realized that I really had nobody in life but my fake family, the ultimate duo: the then love of my life and the girl he’d cheated on me with. I felt so alone then and in those days after. Like a girl lost on a raft in a black, indifferent sea. …
In conclusion, life has taken a much better turn ever since, but I feel that my life’s circumstances and the time I spent during most of the aforementioned period (the majority of my life) taught me to doubt myself constantly and internalize the “fact” that I was not good enough for my parents and did not deserve love from neither parents nor friends or boys. Thus, I believed that I was doomed to a life of … well, um, doom. And as you may imagine, that may have given me a bit of a boost in the wrong direction when it came to interactions with people.
These days, I see myself as a diamond in the rough and not as the rough anymore, and I still treasure the hope that got me through life. I still hold onto it, but as I grow, it grows with me: It grows more positive and wraps itself around me and the things I do, inspiring me and charging me onward. I often stop by a little church on some days — there, I ask God for courage and strength to help me get through whatever I fear that day, week or month. That helps me.
As I said yesterday, I feel that you really have to find what helps you and then follow it. You won’t find it by waiting for it to fall in your lap; you’ll have to try different things, fail and give up at most of them before you finally stumble on a gem. The gem too may be a diamond in the rough, so when you see it first, you might just think it’s a piece of broken glass and keep going.
But I have faith you’ll be back. Somehow, somewhere, whether it’s hope or some other kind of motivator, the thing you cherish the most will end up being your rope that will pull you to the answer.
And that’s why wise counselors tell young minds who don’t know what they want to do in life, “Do what you love, and money will follow.” Because if you follow your heart’s hints, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem, it’s a step in the right direction. And as we all know, the journey of a 1,000 miles can never be completed in a day, and it always starts with the first step. And you can be sure that the journey and the destination will look nothing like the start.
My fear, you ask, then? Finally, I’ll tell you: people. There. I said it. Sometimes, I’m scared of interacting with people. Irrational, but it’s the same kind of fear I felt at home when I was little. Scared that I’ll say the wrong thing as I often seemed to do then, and scared that what they say in return will sting, bringing back memories of all my mother’s lacerations on my tender, young heart. Scared that they’ll laugh, and their laugher will echo as it did in all those years of school. Scared that I’ll get hurt, in friendship and in love, as I did so deeply in college.
All insecurities. All fears that hold me back. And that’s why I’ve adopted this belief this year, that by putting myself in various social situations — whether it’s volunteering, persuading people to vote, having a regular conversation with higher-ups or strangers — is a step in the right direction for me.
It’s a tough path at times — especially when it’s Thursday and it’s cold out and you don’t feel like leaving the hearth of your home — but it’s necessary. And I don’t mind it so much anymore when I come face to face with awkward silences, or when I notice myself rambling out of nervousness or when I fumble my words and feel like an idiot. Sure, I blush then and feel uncomfortable, but I always remind myself: In not even a year, how much will this moment really matter? And the answer is always the same: In a month, I won’t even remember it, but that moment combined with all those other moments will have made a transitional difference in my personality. Because each moment of discomfort pushes us toward a step in the right direction, and sometimes issues reach far too deep within us for us to be able to pick up our feet on our own and run.